Review: WILSN @ Stranded Bar (Brisbane)

WILSN played Stranded Bar (Brisbane) on 30 March, 2024.
National Music Editor, based in Brisbane, Australia.
'Passionate about true crime docos, the Swannies, golf and sleep, I’ve been writing about music for 20-plus years. What I’ve learnt? There’s two types of music – good and bad.’

If WILSN is an artist you are to still discover, you better rectify that asap 'cause the Australian soul-R&B artist is going places, quickly.

Brisbane welcomed the smoky-vocals chanteuse on Saturday night (30 March), Stranded Bar the location as a small, but dedicated audience embraced WILSN and her band (who are super tight, each member adding their own textures to the instrumentation that wouldn't be out of place in Tennessee or Louisiana) on the final date of her album tour (before heading to Bluesfest).

After opening with 'Paycheck (I Got You)' – maybe a new song as it's not available to stream – WILSN switches to 'I Love You So' from the 'Those Days Are Over' record, the Memphis dive bar vibes oh-so real with THAT voice strikingly rich, vibrantly vintage, and definitely soul-enriching!

With its Twin Peaks soundscape opening tones, the country-soul 'Hurts So Bad' follows WILSN performing the track minus its duet partner, Josh Teskey. While the collab version is lit, WILSN carries the song tonight with aplomb the songwriting stirring the emotions.

The 'Those Days Are Over' material continues to dominate the set list, with the brilliant 'Too Sober For Words' next, its lyrics: 'Hey yeah I'm getting drunk / I'm getting high / I'm just too sober for words' the perfect sing-along for a Saturday evening in the Valley. While the bluesy, alt. country comfort of 'Come On Over My Way' slows the pace yet deepens the attachment to WILSN's songwriting.

At this juncture, the band abandon the stage WILSN somewhat confused as her set list onstage has ripped, the singer momentarily dazed before realising it's the section of the show where she performs just with her guitarist, Steve #1 (more on Steve #2 soon!).

WILSN introduces a song about bad boyfriends. . . one in particular (who Steve #1 also loathes) who's well known that she won't name before the crowd prod her with a vocal "name and shame!" After a pause, she declares it's a 'Karl', then says with a laugh: "Now I can't stop thinking about Karl Stefanovic!" The song? 'Never Happen Again'. The searing emotion was stark as it was raw, yet totally cathartic.

The band return for 'When Those Bright Lights Go Down' (a song written while surviving on $2 pizzas from grocery store chain Kroger when living in Nashville), the rich organ a standout, before her newest song about "god therapy", 'Can't Afford Therapy' arrives. . . a standout moment of the evening and an enticing chapter of what is yet to come from WILSN.

We're also introduced to Steve #2, the sound guy who doubles as WILSN's partner. The affection both have for the other is palpable and adds to to the charm of the evening. (Steve #2 also received the loudest cheer at the end of the set when WILSN introduced the band!)

An unreleased song, 'Only Love', is back-announced by WILSN, who cheekily adds it's about family and luckily no members of her family are in attendance!

When she asks if we love Aretha Franklin she's meet with cheers and one ecstatic crowd member who squeals with delight ("whoever squealed, that's my level of love for Aretha too!"); she proceeds to cover 'I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)'.

The evening ends with a trio of 'Those Days Are Over' songs: 'You Know Better', 'Everyday And Every Night' and 'If You Wanna Love Me'.

With a voice reminiscent of Amy Winehouse with plenty of Duffy, Dusty and Nancy feels too (even a hint of Alabama Shakes), this was my second WILSN live experience (after she opened for The Teskey Brothers in December) – it won't be my last, either.

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